Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Some Cambrian rocks from the Bridger Range

My third day in Montana this summer, Lily and I took a hike in the Bridger Range, going up the west side of the range via Corbly Gulch to a cirque opposite the "usual" route up Sacagawea Peak, which starts at Fairy Lake on the east side, then goes up into Sacagawea Cirque* and south to the peak. Instead, we went up Corbly Gulch and got a whole new look at Bridger stratigraphy. First, orient yourself with this topographic map:

The Fairy Lake route brings you to the ridge crest from the upper right (northeast), wheras the Corbly Gulch route brings you to the same ridge crest from the lower left (southwest). Now take a look at some satellite imagery:

The green line at upper right is the ridge crest; Sacagawea Peak is just off-screen to the right. It will not surprise you to learn that stratigraphic contacts strike NW-SE in this area. The forested left-hand part of the screen is underlain by Mesoproterozoic LaHood Formation, a coarse-grained formation in the Belt Supergroup. Then there's a little gap of grassy area and a thin line of trees atop a light-brownish layer. This is the Cambrian Flathead Sandstone, which is chock-full of interesting sedimentary structures and trace fossils. The prominent light-colored ridge-forming layer traversing the screen from upper left towards lower right is the Cambrian Pilgrim Limestone, which shows "fossil hurricanes" in the form of limestone-chip conglomerates.

Here's some of the trace fossils in the Flathead Sandstone:

Here's a limestone-chip conglomerate from the Pilgrim Limestone, which I interpret as a paleo-hurricane deposit: rip-up clasts from a carbonate bank tumbled and re-deposited together in a big jumble:

We hiked up to the ridge, and peered down into Sacagawea Cirque (getting pummeled by the wind!), but didn't feel like we had sufficient time to attempt summiting Sacagawea, since I had to be back on MSU's campus for an evening session as part of "Bahama Montana" class. More on that tomorrow...

* The following week, my Regional Field Geology students proposed to rename Sacagawea Cirque as "Death Cirque," for reasons I will explain in due course...

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